On Being a Young Pro

Kurt Vonnegut speaking at Case Western Reserve...

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“Do not take the entire world on your shoulders. Do a certain amount of skylarking, as befits people your age. ‘Skylarking,’ incidentally, used to be a minor offense under Naval Regulations. What a charming crime. It means intolerable lack of seriousness.”

Kurt Vonnegut, 1970

As products of the U.S. college and university system, once we graduate, we march on with instructions. Be a global citizen. Be a positive contribution to society.

Change the world. One person at a time.

Taking a step back and looking at the charge we were given, I believe that those are amazingly daunting tasks.

But we pressed on.

I left Elon University to join an ad agency. After the shop went through some tough times I found myself joining up with a friend to start our own marketing shop.

Yes. We’re changing the world. One city at a time.

More often than not, the older ones in charge do not take ‘us’ (meaning my biz partner and I, and young professionals in general) seriously. How interesting. As young professionals we are immediately hit with a delightful contradiction.

How are we supposed to make serious change in the world when the older ones don’t take us serious?

Of course, there are the usual answers (mentorship, ‘learning the ropes,’ asking questions, etc.) but then what? The cycle starts all over again. Nothing new really comes to fruition.

Nothing really changes.

Or maybe it does. Perhaps this is just a blabbering post of my frustration with the industry I reside. If that is the case, I see why we young pros aren’t taken so seriously. Perhaps it is because we are in such a rush to change the world- to make a difference- we’re looked at as crazy, and with that foolish.

But let’s press on.

The reason I started this post with that Vonnegut quote is because I want to tell other young professionals (and in reality, myself) that it is okay to not be serious sometimes. We’re still youthful. Let’s keep that creative, curious, child-like flame internally smoldering. We will lose our youth and be taken seriously eventually. But why throw away our skylark ways in exchange? Is it worth it?

With all the professionals I have read about, and the advice thrown at me, I don’t believe it is.

As young professionals, we have the best of both worlds- we are allowed to have fun and be serious. Let’s not trade that for world problems and issues. We can have curiosity and leadership. We can have friends, as well as followers.

The point: as young professionals, we want to be taken seriously. And we will be. But let’s have some fun while we’re at it.

Or, as Vonnegut would say, “but skylark, too.”


Do We Consumers Know What We Want?

Early 1980's U.S. 12 oz. "Pepsi Challenge...

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Surely, that’s a stupid question.

In the rise of social media, in the information age, there is nothing that consumers do not know, nor could find out.

Of course we know what we want. The information is out there. The power- therefore the influence- is in our hands. The power of Choice has finally shifted, at last, to the consumer.


Perhaps it is the academia speaking, but I find it quite hard to believe that people truly understand what they want. From the conscious and unconscious forces that act on us every day, I cannot agree with the notion that today’s consumer knows exactly what they want, and why they want it. Or perhaps, they know what they want, but the reason they put forth doesn’t match the action(s).

If I’m wrong, then buyer’s remorse is pretty much extinct. Cognitive dissonance is a dream and halo effects and other survey error elements can be erased from a marketer’s toolbox.

In a section of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, there is a discussion about the Pepsi Challenge, and about how people choose products based on package, and not necessarily the actual attributes of the product.

But of course, if it is mentioned in today’s environment that us humans aren’t actually in total control of our conscious, and that our explanations of our actions may be faulty, one shouldn’t expect that opinion to be welcomed with open arms and ears.

After reading this far, I’m sure you already know my stance on the title question.

What say you?